The Edmonton Oilers play the Calgary Flames tonight. It’s a meaningless game for a bad Edmonton team made worse by injury. It’s a pivotal game for a decent Calgary Flames club that has won every game it has played against Edmonton all season.
It’s a great chance for the Oilers to throw a wrench into the Flames’ playoff hopes. Don’t hold your breath on that.
Edmonton just completed an embarrassing two-game sojourn to California in which they weren’t remotely competitive in back-to-back games against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. After losing 5-1 to the Ducks, interim head coach Todd Nelson challenged his team to be better. They responded with an 8-2 debacle in L.A.
It’s something to keep in mind when designating Dallas Eakins the great demotivating Satan, just as Eakins’ difficulties are something to keep in mind when assessing Nelson’s performance. My first car was a well-worn 1987 Honda Accord I paid $400 for; no matter how well I drove the car it wasn’t going to go any faster than 70 KPH when it went up a hill. Jacques Villeneuve would have got more out of it than I did, but even he couldn’t get more out of it than it had to give.
Calgary is 4-0-0 on the season against the Oilers and has a 17-8 edge in goals. The team’s season is on the line. The smart money here is on a decisive Flames win, and that should be the expectation. Still, it’s an opportunity for the Oilers, and if Edmonton does manage to claw out the win it should be remembered as a wonderful moment from a club playing out the string in a difficult season.
David Musil is expected to make his NHL debut against the Flames, and it’s hard to think of a more fitting game for him to start his NHL career. His father spent five seasons in Calgary and then three seasons in Edmonton, so David would have seen a lot of both teams growing up. It can be easy to get down on a team in a season like this, but it’s worth taking the time to put oneself in Musil’s shoes: He’s playing his first NHL game, on Hockey Night in Canada, in the storied Battle of Alberta. It’s impossible not to be happy for the player, particularly given his family history.
“He had to really work on his foot speed, and that’s improving. He’s a big body and has the ability to make plays.” – Coach Nelson on Musil
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 4, 2015
Some have already written Musil’s obituary, even though his career is still in its infancy. Skating’s a critical skill, and a real reason to be concerned about the player, but there’s no reason to write the 21-year-old off just yet. He’s big, he’s physical, and he’s smart, and many a defenceman before him has been able to carve out an NHL career based on those attributes. He doesn’t need to be fast; he just needs to be fast enough. If he can get there, the Oilers will have a pretty useful player.
The lines are to-be-determined; the following is our best guess:
What They’re Saying
Ben Scrivens gets the start for the Edmonton Oilers. He’s 15-25-10 with a 3.09 goals against average and .893 save percentage. It’ll be his 52nd start for the year. He’s the better of Edmonton’s goalies, which probably tells you why they are where they are right now.
David Musil makes his NHL debut tonight, replacing Nikita Nikitin. You may recall that his dad, Frank, played for both the Flames and Oilers. It’ll be cool to see him get into the line-up, particularly making his debut in the midst of a Battle of Alberta.
The Oilers are firmly in spoiler mode and playing much better of late, so expect them to play an energetic game tonight. They have nothing left to lose.
Game day prediction: Calgary wins by a 4-1 score.
Obvious game day prediction: Corey Power Potter Play scores the game-winning goal, unless Sam Bennett dresses in which case he might score it.
Not-so-obvious game day prediction: David Musil has just nine assists in 62 AHL games this season. He picks up his 10th helper of the season tonight, recording his first NHL point in his very first NHL game.
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